Unhappy that the Justice Department denied his request to investigate campaign fliers handed out by Maryland Republicans on Election Day, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer fired-off a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking him to justify the decision.

"Unfortunately, the midterm elections held on Nov. 7, 2006, were tarnished by countless dirty tricks and ugly tactics. The ploy used in Maryland stands out for its sheer cynicism and brazenness," said Schumer, chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign committee, in a letter sent on Wednesday.

Schumer's letter refers to fliers distributed on Election Day by homeless people bused in from Philadelphia by campaign committees for Gov. Robert Ehrlich's re-election bid and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's race for Senate.

Fliers handed out in Prince George's County gave the impression they were a Democratic sample ballot, but listed Ehrlich and Steele along with Democratic candidates for county and legislative offices. The fliers also made it appear that two prominent black Democrats — Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and former Rep. Kweisi Mfume — were supporting Ehrlich and Steele. Both supported Democratic candidates — Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley for governor and Rep. Ben Cardin for the Senate.

The Department of Justice notified Schumer in a Nov. 16 letter that it had looked into the complaint and concluded "that there is an insufficient legal basis to initiate a formal investigation."

Schumer's letter to Gonzales requested answers to eight questions, including whether the department undertook any preliminary factual investigation before reaching its conclusion not to conduct a formal investigation.